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Old 07-05-2020, 09:32 AM   #11
David
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Default Re: An experiment in notation

Perhaps in the early instructional phase, some sheets illustrating the actual timing of gracing. But do we not have this in Jim McGillivray's RHYTHMICAL FINGERWORK?

Irregular general theory and practice of embellishments lessons, covering notational convention, versus musical expression, might be enough. I imagine many good teachers get this across. and many do not. So many subtle difference in timing with grace notes and embellishments!
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Old 07-13-2020, 01:35 PM   #12
Donald Ross
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Default Re: An experiment in notation

I have no issue with any of the notation here. I think for some students, particularly those who have conditioned themselves reading the notation of music that is for instruments other than the bagpipes, it is helpful to show them briefly that these grace notes do not have the same value as the same notes would have if they were part of the melody of the tune.

However, and this is not a criticism, just one guy's experience and opinion, I do not find that the notation is particularly useful with students for anything other than the initial learning of the fingering of the embellishment or for the learning the fingering of a tune.

When I learned the bagpipe, and I had very good instructors from the beginning, I wondered why piping was an oral tradition for so long. Later, I understood. There is no substitute for the ears and I tell this to students now, of any instrument, that the tutor books and exercises are to build up the muscle memory, strength, endurance, precision, and accuracy of their operation of the instrument.

When it comes to playing "music" on the instrument, and playing in a way that is "musical," you must use your ears. Use them to listen to masters of the instrument. Use them to listen to recordings of masters of the instrument. Use them to listen to recordings of yourself playing the instrument. Get that correct portrayal of those notes and their values into your brain's neural pathways. Same with tuning the bagpipe.

I gave all my students CDs of recordings and told them, "when your fingers and your embouchure get fatigued, just put on some headphones and listen to these correct recordings of the tunes you are learning and get it into your head. You will learn to hear the difference between those recordings and your own playing and you will hear it when it you are playing incorrectly.

I learned this way, and there was never a time in competition when I did not hear the same thing on the boards while playing that I found later in the judge's comments. Even as a grade 5 soloist, a student should be learning to hear when they make an error and learning to hear what the correct execution sounds like.

So, with the D throw or any other embellishment, cantaireachd or recordings of the embellishments at slow or normal speed, or playing them for the student at a lesson, I think is the best way to help them learn the nuances of those grace note values. Yes, initially, they will scratch their heads and say to themselves, "Isn't that the same thing I just played?" This is the same with learning a foreign language where beginners cannot hear the nuances in pronunciation and inflection, but one's ear eventually gets tuned to the differences by listening to them.

Just another perspective to consider.
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Old 07-13-2020, 02:36 PM   #13
CalumII
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Default Re: An experiment in notation

I see what you're getting at Donald, and I don't completely disagree. I do think though that a lot of the time piping teaching occurs by the "point and grunt" method - "Naw, it's no like this, it's like [plays]". If you can hear a difference, then you can work out what the difference is, you can describe the difference, and the student can understand what you mean.



And for what it's worth, I think this is where a difference between teaching adults and children does come in - as I joke to my adult students, teaching adults is harder because they do what you tell them, whereas children just copy what you do.
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Old 07-13-2020, 03:43 PM   #14
Donald Ross
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Default Re: An experiment in notation

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Originally Posted by CalumII View Post
And for what it's worth, I think this is where a difference between teaching adults and children does come in - as I joke to my adult students, teaching adults is harder because they do what you tell them, whereas children just copy what you do.
Really well said, here. I agree. I do not advocate we not identify the notation that is easiest for the student to grasp what actually needs to be played. I am, however, expressing my thought that we do not do that exclusive to asking the student early on to begin training her/his/their ears to listen for these differences, we fail to tap the most important tool of the musician - the ears. The best instruction would provide notation to read, exercises to practice the movement, and listening to correct execution so as to have something to emulate, and enough practice with the hearing part to develop the ability to make the distinction between the well-played and the not so well-played.

In the end, and once you have some competency with the instrument and you are not fighting the fingers trying to operate it, it's all about the sound. Audiences are using ears to perceive what we do, musicians of all instruments and styles are using listening to determine what is "good" and I think it is a good thing for students to work at developing.

A metaphor that comes to mind, I am sure there are many, is that when someone learns to drive a car, they are thinking about steering, and braking and throttle, and signaling and watching for traffic, and anticipating what other drivers might do and what our action is going to be depending on what other drivers do, etc. When I taught my kids to drive, we went to a big empty parking lot many times for the sole purpose of getting comfortable with the machine's controls (the notation, if you will). When they could operate the machine without thinking about each movement, we went out on the road in traffic so that they could learn the other important things about driving that have nothing to do with the car's controls. That is where the art of the driving is.

Many know how to operate a car, but not all are good drivers. Many know how to operate a pipe, not all are good pipers!

Last edited by Donald Ross; 07-13-2020 at 03:44 PM. Reason: grammar
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Old 07-20-2020, 05:00 PM   #15
pancelticpiper
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Default Re: An experiment in notation

I would flip the fingering charts the other way, it's how other instruments are done, and many piping books too.

If vertical the top of the chanter is at top.

If horizontal the top of the chanter is at left.

x xxx xxxo "low A"

x xxo xxxo "E"

I just pulled out my Guide To Teaching Woodwinds (from my Music Major days) and it uses that horizontal format, top of the instrument to left, for sax, clarinet, bassoon, and oboe. (For flute too, though a flute is held nearly horizontal.)

Uilleann pipers and Irish whistle and flute players can read it too.

About staff notation, as I've said before it amazes me how few pipers can sightread in the way that any ordinary musician can.

By "sightread" I mean be handed the sheet music to a March or Jig you've never heard, and play it cold, up to tempo.

All the film scores you hear are being performed that way: the musicians have a couple run-throughs at full tempo (it would be unthinkable to do a slowed-down run-through) then it's recorded.

Sightreading is like anything else, it's mere practice. You have to read several notes ahead of where you're playing, you're often reading a bar ahead more or less.

For sure Highland pipe music is written in an idiomatic way, but so is jazz! We're not unique that way.
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Last edited by pancelticpiper; 07-20-2020 at 05:09 PM.
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Old 07-29-2020, 04:35 PM   #16
Jim Fogelman
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Default Re: An experiment in notation

Quote:
Originally Posted by pancelticpiper View Post
I would flip the fingering charts the other way, it's how other instruments are done, and many piping books too.
From what I see, they are written that way.

If possible, I would have the HA hole slightly off to the side or have more space between it and the HG to make it more obvious that itís on the back.
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